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April 14, 2014
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Welcome to Estonia! Win a free trip for two to Estonia!!

Helen Ennok, Public Diplomacy Department

http://quiz.mfa.ee/quiz_2014

 

estonia_quiz_2014

Tiina Kalve, a colleague who for some time has been organising the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ quiz to introduce Estonia has said that she will miss most the e-mails when eventually she is not involved in the quiz any more, such as the email in which the winners of last year’s quiz invited her to the wedding of their daughter, or where a young man from the other side of the world writes about his hope of winning the main prize because this is the only way for him to travel to his beloved girl living in Estonia.

All of us who know of this great quiz have sent a link with the web address to our dear friends abroad wishing that they could visit Estonia and us. We also want them to learn more about our beautiful and interesting Estonia by testing their knowledge and searching for information to find the correct answers and then visit us.

You will find the quiz at quiz.mfa.ee. The quiz is in two languages, English and Russian. It consists of 12 multiple-choice questions covering different aspects of Estonian life. With the help of the different Internet links provided on the quiz page, it should be fun and easy for everyone to discover something new about Estonia. The grand prize is a free trip to Estonia for two, including airfare, accommodation, meals, city tours and more. In addition to the grand prize there will also be drawings for other prizes, which include tour packages in Estonia. The quiz will officially close on 31 May and the names of the winners will be published on 6 June 2014.

The large number of participants each spring, the many fans it has attracted that enter the quiz and the loyalty of the contributors that have been supporting this event prove that the web quiz, which began in the beginning of 2001, is a wholly successful project. In the first quiz year, almost 500 correct answers were sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and last year a record number of 12,407 people from 132 countries took part in the quiz. As always, the quiz was conducted in two languages – English and Russian.

Contributors are very important for us because without them this trip to Estonia would never happen. Estonian Air provides the pairs of airplane tickets for the two winners of the main prize, i.e. the winner of the quiz in Russian and the winner in English. With the assistance of other contributors, we put together five all inclusive travel packages with hotel accommodation, restaurant meals, museum tickets, etc. for six to seven days, so that the guests can get to know Estonia at their ease, and thoroughly.

Most of our contributors have been supporting this event for many years now and as Kairit Vishnenko, sales and marketing manager of Hotel L´Ermitage, says, assisting the quiz of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has become a tradition for them. All of the contributors are delighted to provide their prizes for the quiz. Tiina Kalve confirms that, based on her experience, the supporters that have been with us from the beginning of this quiz consider participating very important.

The fans that take the quiz every single time are as involved as our supporters. Tiina can speak about letters that she has received as early as the beginning of the year, such as the one from a person who is likely a national of Hungary, to go by the name, that wishes to participate in the quiz and informs her about a changed e-mail address so that the notification about the opening of the quiz will not go unnoticed.

A good quiz is always a result of good cooperation. The whole Public Diplomacy Department is engaged in coming up with the questions; our artist, who in recent years has been Agnes Trump, creates the design; and the IT issues are taken care of by the Wiseman company.

We are especially glad about the positive feedback from people, both participants and contributors. The guests that have arrived in Estonia have been very glad and happy that they have happened to be the winners of this trip to Estonia. Just imagine a married couple from Russia that had spent their honeymoon in Tallinn years ago or students from Portugal for whom Estonia is a very interesting and exotic country.

And finally let’s just remember how this once started:

The idea of the quiz belongs to the diplomat Jana Vanamölder. Jana remembers that we were facing a question about how to introduce Estonia to the world in the first years of the 2000s because our country was not well known beyond its borders. Interest was there but we had very little informative materials to distribute to the interested. We needed smarter solutions in addition to traditional publications and advertising. So, we thought about an Internet-based quiz that would reach the whole world, be exciting and have a price – a trip to Estonia.

Throughout the years, many employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been involved in organising this quiz and it has become one of the most successful Ministry of Foreign Affairs projects of all time in introducing Estonia. And it is beneficial to all involved – participants, contributors and the whole of Estonia. 🙂

 

March 31, 2014
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Culture as the messenger of the country

Kaire Jürgenson, Culture and Business Diplomacy Division

Besides traditional diplomacy, other aspects of statecraft are becoming increasingly important – business diplomacy, public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. Of these, the last one – cultural diplomacy – in particular has a growing significance in foreign policy.

Cultural diplomacy isn’t just a way to promote one’s country and people but to increase their prestige in the eyes of other nations. A positive image engendered through cultural diplomacy creates fertile ground for cooperation in other walks of life.

People who have had previous contacts with the culture of a given country – such as by participating in a language course or cultural event – are much more open to investing in that country or looking for business partners there. The reason for this phenomenon is simple – cultural outreach makes a country and people that seem “foreign” seem more familiar. Often the participants in the exchange are surprised to find that their countries are more similar than it seemed at first. Getting to know one another better makes working together more natural, and mutual relations become more trusting.

Increasing the profile of the Estonian state through promotional efforts and outreach is one of the most important roles for diplomats. Estonia’s foreign representations deal with national image-building through, among other avenues, serving as co-organiser of cultural events. In 2013, close to 120 cultural events in various countries were co-organized and/or supported by Estonia’s foreign representations. Examples that deserve mention include the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra tour of the United States, the focus on Estonia at Schleswig-Holstein and Usedom music festivals, the introduction of the “Let’s Do It” trash cleanup programme at the UN Headquarters in Geneva and the distribution of James and Maureen Tusty’s new documentary, “To Breathe as One”.

Nor can the triumph of Estonian design in London go unmentioned – for the second year in a row, Estonia’s fashion design display won the award for best display at the International Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week. Other cultural events deserving mention this year are the release of the feature film “Tangerines” in cooperation between the Estonian and Georgian embassies in Riga, Helsinki and Brussels. In January, the Tartu Academic Male Choir went on a concert tour of Japan. In February, Tel Aviv hosted the Tallinn-Tel Aviv MustonenFest 2014. In March, Estonian contemporary art was featured in Moscow and Estonian Week was held in Budapest. Looking ahead, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra are set to go on a joint concert tour of the US, where works by Arvo Pärt will be performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington and Carnegie Hall in NYC. Among many other upcoming events, Jaan Toomik will open a solo exhibition in Berlin and Estonian music and art will be in the spotlight in Carcasonne.

Estonia is a culturally rich country. Estonian artists and musicians and their work are becoming increasingly better known worldwide and these individuals are also shouldering a key role in promoting the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an annual tradition of thanking and recognizing Estonian artists who have contributed to increasing Estonia’s international prestige and renown as well as people who have imported world culture to Estonia. At this year’s event, held for the fifth year, we acknowledged Imbi Paju, Tiit Ojasoo, Arvo Pärt, Tõnu Kaljuste, Tiina Lokk, Aivar Mäe, Aet Maatee, Veronika Portsmuth, Märt Agu, Raul Talmar, the band Ewert and The Two Dragons, the production team of the motion picture “Une Estonienne à Paris”, Kalle Kasemaa, Anne Erm, the production team of the motion picture “Tangerines”, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Kristiina Ehin and Ilmar Lehtpere.

March 12, 2014
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Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet Visits Moscow

Regina Palandi

Public Relations Officer at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow

On February 17-18, 2014, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia Urmas Paet visited Moscow to meet his colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov.

During the visit, the following agreements were signed: an agreement on the state border between Estonia and Russia and an agreement on maritime delimitation in the Gulfs of Narva and Finland as well as an agreement on the terms of placement of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow and the Russian Embassy in Tallinn. At the meeting, the ministers discussed the bilateral relations and future prospects. Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet emphasised that importance of continuous strengthening of the contractual framework, facilitating cooperation, and elimination of obstacles in the economic field as well as implementation of projects within the framework of cross-border cooperation. More information about the meeting and the content of agreements can be found at

http://www.estemb.ru/novosti/aid-4660

http://www.estemb.ru/novosti/aid-4662

http://www.estemb.ru/estonia_i_rossija/pogranitsjnoje_dogovori

Minister Paet gave a detailed interview to the Russian media.

On air at Ekho Moskvy, the Minister held a dialogue with the radio presenter Alexey Venediktov on the state border agreement between Estonia and Russia, the bilateral relations, the foreign policy of Estonia, including the Eastern Partnership, and other relevant issues.

Eyewitness (Russian: Своими глазами) was broadcast on Radio 19.02 at

http://echo.msk.ru/sounds/1260566.html

National daily business newspaper Kommersant was more deeply interested in the issues concerning the Estonian-Russian relations as well as the interests of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia:

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2413924

The Minister gave detailed answers to the Interfax news questions:

http://www.interfax.ru/txt.asp?id=358228

February 24, 2014
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Approaching Estonia’s 10th anniversary of NATO membership

Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, Undersecretary of Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

This year Estonia celebrates 10 years since joining two international organizations – the European Union and NATO.

At the end of next month, on 29 March, Estonia will celebrate 10 years since joining NATO. Many members of the Alliance are planning rather large-scale events to mark this historic milestone. Here in Estonia we have decided to take a somewhat more low-key, forward-looking approach. The story of our accession, with all of its ups and downs, certainly deserves to be properly told and recorded. But dwelling on the past has never been part of our approach to foreign policy. Wherever possible, we have tried to focus our attention on the future and on meeting any potential challenges that lie ahead. And so, we plan to focus on being in NATO, rather than on how we got into this organization in the first place.

That being said, ten years on, I can still vividly remember what it was like to be knocking on NATO’s door. Perhaps the most difficult time was when we were officially both a NATO aspirant as well as an EU candidate country. We had to do and be many things at once: we had to strengthen our security, reform our economy, struggle to overturn our post-Soviet image, demonstrate that we were as good as the Central Europeans (who were considered clear frontrunners for both organizations) and convince skeptics (of which there were many) that taking us into NATO would not hurt its integrity, but was actually a good idea.

NATO today is obviously quite different from the organization that we joined ten years ago. But its core principles remain the same. And it is still the world’s most powerful military organization. The fact that we belong to this organization is in and of itself a monumental achievement for our country, especially when we take into account where we started from and the depth of skepticism that surrounded Baltic NATO membership at the time. There is no doubt that we worked hard to make it happen but as one of the key diplomats behind our accession Ambassador Jüri Luik has pointed out, we were also blessed with a fair amount of luck. Events such as 9-11 and a brief warming of relations between the United States and Russia that ensued provided us with a rare window of opportunity to make the case for NATO expansion.

NATO membership has always enjoyed high public support among the Estonian people. But as we all know, public support should not be taken for granted. And so we see the upcoming anniversary as a good opportunity to, once again, highlight the benefits of NATO membership. The most obvious benefit for Estonia has been an increase in our security. As we all know, there is no such thing as 100% security. But NATO membership has certainly brought all of us much closer to the magical 100% mark. Our leaders often like to point out that never before in history has Estonia been as secure as it is today. And while this statement may seem obvious – even banal to some – it could not be more true.

While the security environment in Europe is stable, security still matters, despite what some analysts may claim. It matters to large states as well as to small ones such as Estonia. From a security perspective, we continue to face what the analyst Paul Goble has described as some impossible challenges such a small territory and a difficult geographic neighborhood. But thanks to membership in NATO, these challenges no longer threaten our security situation to the extent that they once did. The all-important NATO principle of collective defense as stated in Article V of the Washington Treaty and the deterrence that it offers act as a strong shield against possible outside aggressors who might be foolish enough to consider taking the risk of attacking us.

As we celebrate 10 years of NATO membership, we should also take time to consider what we as ‘relatively new members’ have managed to bring to NATO. I use the term ‘relatively new members’ because in the larges scheme of things, our accession to NATO did not take place that long ago even though, by today, the accession itself seems like a distant memory. Here I believe that we should put aside our modesty and acknowledge that we have made a positive difference in shaping NATO’s agenda.

When we joined NATO ten years ago, there was a lot of idealism and euphoria but also a fair amount of apprehension as to what the future would bring. The main issues on NATO’s agenda – aside from enlargement, of course – included providing training to Iraqi security forces, terminating the SFOR mission in Bosnia, enhancing partnerships and implementing military transformation. Over the past years, thanks to our encouragement, the Alliance has not only taken on board new issues such as cyber defense and energy security but has also adopted a more active approach to core issues such as Article V, defense planning and joint exercises. Indeed, since our accession, some underlining principles such as the need to plan for all contingencies so as to be ready to deal with threats, wherever they may come from, have been reiterated in both a conceptual and practical form. The recent Article V exercise Steadfast Jazz that took place in our region is also good example of the change in approach within NATO.

Finally, the upcoming anniversary is a good opportunity to address a lingering question related to our membership in the Alliance that seems to come up again and again in domestic debates: will NATO actually come to our defense should something happen? It seems that ten years of membership have not done much to alleviate people’s insecurities. Paradoxically, the main concern is not that Estonia will actually be attacked but that we will be left on our own. The answer, of course, is that our allies will come but that this guarantee does not absolve us of the responsibility to maintain our own independent defense forces. An Article V scenario arising in the near future is considered unlikely and yet, as allies we must still prepare for one.

Clearly changes are ahead for NATO and, consequently, for Estonia as a NATO member. NATO has been active in Afghanistan the entire time that Estonia has been a member and the Alliance’s internal dynamic will certainly change once combat operations in Afghanistan end next year. But it will not necessarily be as dramatic as some have predicted. From the interoperability point of view, ten years of working together in Afghanistan have left the Alliance stronger than before. The key question now is how to maintain and build on the current position, how to ensure that NATO is able to fulfill its main tasks in the years to come – both Article V and non-Article V, both on NATO soil and beyond.

Today, the commitment to a strong Alliance is there. But what will be the situation in 10 years time? Will NATO be able to meet its commitments and maintain credibility and relevance as allies spend less and less on defense? In discussions on defense spending it is often pointed out that it is not only important how much you spend on defense but what you spend the money on. While this is true and there are many smart ways that allies can cooperate and save money, one cannot overlook the fact that you simply cannot do less with less. Today, the commonly agreed 2% benchmark is being met by but a few allies and this is an issue of concern for us.

When we joined the Alliance, we set ourselves some simple goals. Our aim was to be viewed as an ally that is militarily capable, willing to contribute to joint operations – including those further afield – and ready to use force if necessary. We also set ourselves the overarching goal of becoming a responsible ally that does not simply consume security but also contributes to it. And so, since 2004, we have participated in all NATO operations except for the Libya operation in 2011. We have brought our defense spending up to 2% of GDP. And we have participated actively in exercises. None of these steps were easy. We should be proud of them as well as of our membership in NATO.

February 22, 2014
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Estonian Fashion Design at London Fashion Week

Helen Rits, spokesperson in Estonian Embassy in London

Estonian design deserves to be introduced more widely in the world and many of our designers and design companies have great export potential. Therefore, opportunities must be found to introduce Estonian design and designers at international level. The last few years have confirmed that London Fashion Week is an event worth participating in, because it provides an excellent opportunity for fashion designers to showcase their work.

Photo: Hannah Laycock

Photo: Hannah Laycock

London Fashion Week does not need any further introduction for people interested in fashion. For those who are less fashion-conscious, this is one of the top events in the fashion year, where designers and famous brands present their new collections under the watchful eye of the fashion critics. This is also where fashion houses and buyers establish contacts and look for new emerging talent. Naturally, the entire event attracts great public attention and the journalists and fashion blogs write countless articles and take lots of glamorous photos. Anyone who wants to make an impression and achieve anything in the fashion world needs to attend Fashion Week.

Every year, many auxiliary events take place in London in connection with Fashion Week. One is the International Fashion Showcase (IFS), which was organised for the third time this year. This is an event for beginning designers and is organised by the British Fashion Council in cooperation with the British Council. The IFS takes place at the same time as Fashion Week in order to bring the work of young talented designers to the attention of the talent scouts, journalists and bloggers that attend Fashion Week. Estonia participated in the IFS for the third time and our participation has been very successful.

The Estonian fashion design exposition called “FreshEst presents: Ministry of Creative Affairs” won the top prize in 2013. And this year, the exhibition introducing the work of Estonian designers called “Fashion Now: Estonia” won first prize for its presentation.

The Estonian exposition was chosen as the best from among the 27 participating countries. The judges considered the work of the young designers as well as the general concept and artistic execution of the entire exhibition, which was splendidly blended into an integrated whole. Sarah Mower, one of the world’s most respected fashion journalists and contributing editor of Vogue US, who headed up the panel of judges, called the Estonian exposition “mind-blowing!”

Photo: Hannah Laycock

Photo: Hannah Laycock

This achievement is a great acknowledgement for Estonian fashion design and provides confirmation of the fact that our fashion designers are competitive and able to attract attention on the international fashion scene. Therefore, it is essential that we continue to participate in similar projects and to systematically introduce products and services designed in Estonia to the world.

This year’s prize-winning exposition included Marit Ilison’s coat collection called “I Want to Sleep” (“Magada tahaks”) and her women’s collection called “Other” (“Teine”); Jo Nurme’s men’s and women’s parkas; Sille Sikmann’s handmade men’s shoes; and Kärt Põldmann’s collections of handmade shoes for women and men. In addition to the work of the four young Estonian designers, KAAMOS, a presentation about Estonian fashion design curated by Tanel Veenre, showcased samples of the best work by 20 Estonian fashion designers.  The curator of the Estonian exposition was Tanel Veenre and the design of the exhibition was executed by Hannes Praks Studio.

It is also important to note that Estonia’s wonderful accomplishment is the result of excellent teamwork. The Estonian exposition was organised by the Estonian Design Centre and Estonian Embassy in London, with support from the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Development Fund, British Fashion Council and British Council.

Photos from the Estonian exposition called Fashion Now: Estonia: http://www.flickr.com/photos/estonianembassyinlondon/sets/72157641001740145/

February 21, 2014
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Estonia and the Freedom Online Coalition

Piret Urb, Unit of International Organisations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

When we read online publications or use online services on the Internet, we do not usually connect this to human rights and fundamental freedoms, or think about the entire set of problems related to this topic worldwide. Unfortunately, the Internet, not to mention online services, is not as free and available in other countries as it is in Estonia.

Esimene logoThe logo you see here symbolises the closed, totally locked or completely open windows in the world, just as it operates day-to-day from the viewpoint of Internet freedom.

Currently, Estonia holds the chair of the Freedom Online Coalition*, which means being responsible for the development and daily operations of the coalition. We coordinate positions, exchange information and issue joint statements. The Freedom Online Coalition is an intergovernmental coalition committed to advancing Internet freedom worldwide, including aim to deepen the discussion on how freedom of Expression on the Internet is helping to promote democracy and development.

 The coalition is also interested in attracting new members who share our thinking. The last member to join was Moldova at the beginning of January, 2014. We are very happy about this because Moldova is a success story of the Eastern Partnership, and it has achieved a great deal by systematically taking steps in the direction of a democratic society.

With its activities, the Freedom Online Coalition has given a clear signal to the world that the virtual freedom of expression is an indivisible part of human rights and that supporting and promoting freedom of expression on the Internet is just as important as the protection and promotion of other human rights. As the Human Rights Council says in its Resolution 20/8 on freedom on the Internet, which was adopted by consensus at its meeting in June 2012: “…the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice…”

In addition, the coalition focuses on supporting the bloggers, journalists and citizens who live in countries where Internet freedom is restricted. This year, Estonia contributed € 50,000 to the Digital Defenders Partnership. The principal activities of the coalition also include the promotion of a continuous dialogue on online freedom between the state, civil society and private sector.

Logo

As chair of the Freedom Online Coalition, Estonia’s greatest task this year is to organise the coalition’s fourth high-level annual conference. After the FOC was established in The Hague, conferences have taken place in Nairobi in September in 2012 and in Tunis in June 2013. In April 2014, Estonia will have the great honour of hosting the coalition’s 22 foreign ministers along with many other high-level and very interesting guests in Tallinn.

More information about the Freedom Online Coalition and the conference in Tallinn, which is called Free and Secure Internet for All, is available on the conference’s website at http://www.freedomonline.ee/.

All the concerned parties will be involved – the states, private sectors and NGOs – who play equally important roles in the administration and development of the global Internet. The keywords of the conference are a free or open and secure Internet, which is a specific but also broad topic.  Considering the fact that the best experts in the field have been invited, we are sure that we can look forward to extremely exciting debates, in the course of which the representatives of Estonia, as a country that uses Internet services daily, can share their experiences.

* Many organisations and NGOs in various countries are focusing their activities on the protection of Internet freedom. One such organisation is the Freedom Online Coalition, which was founded in The Hague in December 2011 at the initiative of the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Estonia is one of the founding members of the coalition. To save time, the coalition is usually called the FOC. The aim of the coalition is to defend and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, include the freedom of expression, in virtual space, which is limitless. The coalition unites 22 similarly thinking countries (Austria, Ghana, Costa Rica, Eesti, Georgia, The Netherlands, Ireland, Kenya, Canada, Latvia, The Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, France, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Tunisia, the Czech Republic, U.K. and U.S.), which are committed to working for the preservation and promotion of freedom online.